Karabi Acharya, who has drawn upon her expertise in anthropology, public health and systems thinking in working with the citizen sector in the United States, South Asia, and Africa, joined the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 2015. She directs the Foundation’s strategies for global learning as it identifies best practices in other countries, including poorer or less-developed ones, and adapting them to improve the social determinants of health in communities in the United States. “We are looking internationally for solutions that will help us build a Culture of Health,” Acharya says. “While RWJF has always sought out new programs and strategies in the United States, we understand that we don’t have all the answers here at home. So we seek to assimilate ideas from around the world and use that knowledge to build a Culture of Health in the United States.”
Previously, Acharya was global director for Ashoka, a network of social entrepreneurs worldwide, with nearly 3,000 fellows in 70 countries putting their system-changing ideas into practice on a global scale. She led Ashoka’s efforts to document the impacts of its work and convene critical conversations that will shape our future. In this role she led the design of the 2015 and 2013 Ashoka Future Forum, which brought together more than 300 social entrepreneurs, business leaders, philanthropists and journalists to discuss and celebrate thought-provoking solutions. “I see the connections across diverse fields, sectors and social issues,” she says. “In my work on global health issues I have always been inspired by the power of intersections and strange combinations to produce incredible innovations like rats to tackle land mines and blind women detecting breast cancer.”
Prior to Ashoka, Acharya served as a senior program officer with the Academy for Educational Development where she developed the SCALETM approach, a whole-system approach that builds social capital by strengthening organizational networks. SCALETM has been used in agriculture, tourism, and health sectors in more than nine countries. It has improved livelihoods for more than 100,000 Kenyan dairy farmers and ended a private sector boycott in Morocco, putting women’s cooperatives back to work. Also, during this period, Acharya was on faculty at Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health.
Acharya earned a BA in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, a Masters of Health Science in International Health from Johns Hopkins University, and a Doctor of Science from Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. She is also a Donella Meadows Leadership Fellow. She has written and presented extensively on a host of issues, such as sustainability, nutrition, health disparities, child health, infectious diseases, immunizations and many other areas of national and global health.
Acharya enjoys crossing boundaries, whether conceptual or geographic, and has lived in Belgium, France and India and traveled to more than 20 countries. She currently calls Pennsylvania home and, with her husband and two daughters, strives to build a Culture of Health at home and in her backyard garden.